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We live in a sophisticated world of gender signaling, a world of increasingly mutable lines which nevertheless must not be crossed. For men, this can be a particularly fraught territory in which even a traditionally “man” color like black is not always universally recognized as masculine (see: “Little Black Dress”) and some women talk freely about decorating their “man caves.” During this period of cultural upheaval, men face the dangerously high possibility of girl cootie transmission. Our snack food and fashion industries have done their best to confront the problem with Yorkie bars, Dr. Pepper TEN, man bags, and mandals, all of which remove the ambiguity of whether a man may eat chocolate, drink soda, carry a satchel or briefcase, or wear shoes the size of his feet. But until all things have been similarly vetted and labeled, how can the trailblazing male learn to distinguish the manly forest from the suspiciously flower-festooned trees? Here is a helpful primer to some under-researched girly vectors best eschewed:

Lunch: Like “brunch,” this is a portmanteau, in this case: “lady munch.” Traditionally, only women ate a midday meal; men were out working, hunting, etc.

Gallon: It’s no coincidence the gallon remains our primary unit for measuring milk. This British Imperial unit, before it was standardized, literally meant “eight full breasts.” Always denominate your fuel tank by the liter, even if your car must suckle gallon-gauged pumps. (Alternate name: “the Long Gal.”)

Sidewalks: “Sidewalks,” akin to riding “sidesaddle,” are a means of travel intended to accommodate the inefficient female form — in this case, by elevating it several inches above street level, just like high heels. Men, who are naturally the correct height to observe vehicle traffic, don’t require special pavement and may in fact misalign their skeletons if they make regular practice of using same. Urban planners have unsuccessfully tried to make this obvious by placing sidewalks beside the road, where no man would ever choose to be marginalized, yet many men have taken leave of their senses and behaved as though they lack the manly confidence to step in front of a speeding coupe on the main road with the sure knowledge it will yield.

Loose-leaf Paper: Written thought’s natural medium is the scroll, a single thesis read from beginning to conclusion with no interruption. All the greats wrote on scrolls (Moses; Jack Kerouac). However, the multitasking female mind yearns to flip between wish lists, gossip, and moralizing couplets, so publishers seeking a wide audience chop documents into shorter bite-sized lady-accommodating thought-morsels called “she-teaspoons” (abbreviated: “sheets”) of paper.

Medievalism: The word medieval is derived from the Saxon “maidye vale,” or “valley caused by women.” The Dark Ages were obviously the result of runaway female empowerment — a testament to the oft-proven proverb that when you give women just a little control, what you get is codpieces and witchcraft. On the surface, armoring up in a tank-like mech suit to bash another man with a spikey metal ball seems like ordinary, wholesome macho fun, but it also underpins an elaborate princess fantasy of chivalry in which men are expected to carry elaborately-clothed women down spiral staircases.

Hurdles: By Puritan custom, if an unmarried woman flung herself to the ground in front of a bachelor, he was obliged to leap over her prone body; if she managed to snag his ankle mid-jump, they were considered betrothed. Predictably, scheming cousins sometimes exploited this innocent tradition by banding together to form multi-woman obstacle courses, the better to entrap husbands.

Refrigerator: Most women feel a thrill of delight each time they make cold-set Jell-O, or ceviche—they know the fridge is a modern-day shrine to Norse goddess-queen Frigg, ruler of the winter solstice and weaver of fate itself. This is a level of power to which every female aspires; they will test your willing complicity by offering you refrigerated leftovers. Unplug your fridge immediately. True men eat at restaurants or around campfires. Notably, if a woman agrees to a date on Friday (“Frigg’s-day”), by the laws of the girl code, you won’t get laid.

Femur: Perhaps you have heard women joke about their “lady boners.” The bone to which they refer is, of course, the femur, a large thigh bone which supports a woman’s child-bearing hips. (You may be more familiar with the male skeletal equivalent, the lemur.)

Surgical Clamps: Purely decorative.

Dimes: Minted at the request of First Lady Grace Coolidge, the dame coin (pronounced “dime” due to Coolidge’s prominent Vermont accent) enabled married women to carry housekeeping money in the most minuscule waist purses, called dime bags. Certainly, a man may pay with dimes, but overuse suggests mathematical skill insufficient to accommodate a digit in the ones column. This thinnest and most bashful American coin fits far more comfortably in tiny female hands.

 

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Romie Stott is a Texan author and filmmaker who lives in Italy. You can follow her ideas about science fiction, economics, and directing at romiesays.tumblr.com.

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